Warriors wait for Pelicans-Thunder survivor 

By the time the Warriors tip off their regular-season finale against the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena tonight, they should know their opponent in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Until then, only this much is clear: The Pacific Division champions will meet either the New Orleans Pelicans or the Oklahoma City Thunder in a best-of-seven series that tips off either Saturday or Sunday at home.

The NBA enters the final day of the regular season with more potential postseason scenarios than at any time in recent memory. The uncertainty leaves the Warriors in limbo even though they secured the No. 1 playoff seed throughout the postseason days ago.

As Kerr said to reporters after practice Tuesday: “There’s nothing we can do about it, and we know it’s one of two teams, so whatever happens, happens.”

Here are the possibilities:

New Orleans can nail down the eighth and final berth in the West with a victory over the San Antonio Spurs at home this evening. The Thunder and the Pelicans have identical 44-37 records, but the Pelicans own the tiebreaker by virtue of a 3-1 advantage in head-to-head play this season. The Thunder advance to the playoffs with a victory over the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves coupled with a Pelicans loss.

San Antonio (55-26) is locked in a battle with the Houston Rockets (55-26) and the Memphis Grizzlies (54-27) for the Southwest Division lead and the second playoff berth that goes with it.

The Spurs win a two- or three-way tie if the Rockets are in the mix but lose one if the Rockets aren’t involved. That means coach Gregg Popovich is likely to play starters Tim Duncan, Manu Ginoboli and Tony Parker for as long as the outcome is in doubt, which improves the Thunder’s chances for survival. As the second or third seed, the Spurs won’t face the Warriors until the conference finals at the earliest.

If the Rockets are upset by the Utah Jazz at home, the Memphis Grizzlies move into the second spot with a victory and a Spurs loss. In that case, the Spurs can fall as low as sixth in the order because the Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) also are in the chase.

That sets the stage for a possible Spurs-Warriors matchup in the second round.

Really, it’s as simple as that.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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